“Good fences make for good neighbors.” ~Robert Frost

That seems like a good real estate quote… especially for San Franciscans.  In a geographically small, competitive, dynamic real estate housing market like San Francisco it can take some creativity, work, and clear boundaries to keep us all living happily next to each other. That’s especially true for landlords and renters.  High rents combined with high regulations often put San Francisco landlords and tenants at odds.

After 14 years of helping landlords buy, prep and rent out properties I’ve learned a lot about how clear boundaries, clear contracts, clear expectations, and clear communication can make life happier for everyone.  It’s great that San Francisco renters have protective laws and rights.  My motto is: Landlords have rights too.  I help San Francisco landlords follow the laws and maximize their profits in exchange for providing well-maintained condos, homes and apartments for San Franciscans to live in.

So here they are, Katharine Holland’s…

Insider PRO Tips For San Francisco Landlords

  1. Questions

    When a tenant surprises you with a question – for example catches you when you’re sweeping and asks, “Can I have a dog?” – say, “Let me think about that. I’ll get back to you.” Then call me, Katharine Holland, and we’ll consult on what to do.

  2. Utilities

    Should the landlord pay for garbage, water, etc. NO. Have the tenants pay everything. Landlords feel they “need to provide it,” they don’t. On a four unit building this could save you thousands of dollars a year. You can’t change your utility agreement with existing tenants, but you can start charging new tenants. We can show you how to estimate the annual expense and divide it, how to prorate charges, and double check with rent board to make sure you are doing that correctly.

  3. Water Bills

    If you are paying the water bill, put in all low-flow toilets — and go get the city rebate. It currently $425 to deliver and install and haul away old toilet. City rebates run from $125 to $500 (program is scheduled to end in 2017)
    Click here for current info

  4. Always charge the late fee

  5. Do not allow any subletting. If there is any section on the lease allowing this delete it, or cross it out.

  6. Have 24-hour plumber phone number handy

  7. Show tenants where the water shut off is

  8. Do not install or allow security bars on windows

  9. Install smoke and carbon detectors

  10. Keep organized records for tax purposes

    The rental income you receive will be treated as income for tax purposes. The rental fee received may not cover all costs associated with being the actual homeowner, but you still will need to report the rental income. You also can deduct various expenses related to your rental on your taxes, such as insurance, upkeep of the property, repair costs, depreciation, advertising for the rental, and management fees if you use a third-party company to oversee the property.

  11. Capital Improvement Passthrough

    A landlord may petition the Rent Board to pass through to tenants the costs of certain renovations to the property, which are considered capital improvements.

  12. Forms

    The forms needed for tenant and landlord issues can be found on the Rent Board website

  13. Two associations you may want to join:

    1. San Francisco Apartment Association 
    A nonprofit organization dedicated to keep San Francisco housing owners informed about how to manage their property.
    2. The Professional Property Management Association of San Francisco
    A member organization that keeps property managers and up-to- date with web resources and monthly luncheon meetings

  14. You can run your own background/credit checks at:

    TenaCheck

  15. Go inspect the unit – every year